seared Vietnamese rice crpes
Although these crpes look as if they contain eggs, the yellow color comes from turmeric. They are wonderful for brunch or dinner. Both the batter and the filling can be made a day or more ahead; assembling and cooking them takes just minutes.
For the crpes:
- 1 c. rice flour
- 1 c. coconut milk
- c. water
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- tsp. salt
- tsp. curry powder
- thinly sliced green parts of 2 large or 3 small scallions
- vegetable oil
For the filling:
- lb. cooked crabmeat OR shelled deveined shrimp, halved if large
- Thinly sliced white parts of 2 large or 3 small scallions
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 T. fish sauce
- 1 T. light brown sugar
- lb. oyster or button mushrooms
- 1 T. vegetable oil, PLUS an additional 1 T. if using the shrimp.
- About 2 c. fresh bean sprouts
- Soft lettuces or baby greens
- Fresh Asian (preferred) or Italian basil, cilantro, and mint leaves
- Vietnamese dipping sauce (see below)
Combine the dry ingredients for the crpes, and stir to combine.
Make a well in the center and whisk in the coconut milk and water and
whisk until completely mixed. Stir in the scallion greens and let stand
at least 30 minutes, or refrigerated for up to 2 days. Just before
using, whisk again. The batter should be the consistency of heavy
cream; if it’s too thick, add water by the tablespoonful.
Mix together the scallions, garlic, pepper, fish sauce, light brown sugar (if making vegetarian crpes, set this mixture aside) and then gently stir in the crabmeat or shrimp. Let stand for about 15 minutes.
Tear oyster mushrooms into shreds, or thinly slice button mushrooms. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat and when hot add the mushrooms. Stir-fry until the mushrooms are lightly browned and cooked through. If using crab, add to the skillet and cook for about a minute until the scallions are softened, stirring very gently so as to break up the crabmeat as little as possible. If using the shrimp, stir-fry until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 minutes. (For vegetarian crpes, add the reserved seasoning mixture above.) Remove from the heat and set aside.
Have the bean sprouts and the mushroom/crab mixture close at hand. Place a 10-inch nonstick skillet over high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Stir the crpe batter well, and when the oil is very hot, pour in c. of the batter. Swirl the pan to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. Immediately sprinkle a small handful (about 1/3 c.) of bean sprouts evenly over half the batter and then quickly spread about of the mushroom/crab mixture evenly over the sprouts.
Cover the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sprouts have softened slightly and the edges of the crpe are browned. The batter should be just set, still soft but not liquid on the surface. Lift a corner of the crpe up and check the bottom. It should be browned and crispy. Flip the unfilled crpe half over onto the filled side, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for about 2 minutes. Slide onto a plate and serve immediately, with the lettuce, herbs and dipping sauce. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling.
Bánh Xeo are traditionally eaten by tearing off a piece of the crpe and placing it in a large soft lettuce leaf. The individual diner adds a few leaves of herbs of his or her choice, wraps it into a package, and dunks it into the sauce. It’s lots of fun, but also messy. Alternatively, serve each Bánh Xeo on a plate with torn soft lettuces and herbs on the side and a small cup of the dipping sauce. The diner cuts off a piece of Bánh Xeo, spears some lettuces and herbs, then dunks the whole into the sauce.
Note: Báhn Xeo are sometimes made with combinations of seafood and pork or chicken or all pork or chicken. Vegetarian versions can be made with additional mushrooms and/or strips of fried tofu. Makes 4 crpes.